In New Jersey, some ex-convicts can’t get a driver’s license. In Alabama, a misdemeanor drug conviction means a ban on adopting a child. In 12 states, former felons are ineligible for food stamps. As record numbers of people leave prison, thousands of ex-criminals are pouring into communities. They’ve served their time, but their conviction bars them from many jobs, state and federal aid and some types of housing, reports USA Today.
Policymakers are beginning to consider whether the hodgepodge of state laws and regulations are protecting the public or creating an underclass of ex-cons who, after serving their sentence, cannot return to society. Congress will consider the issue later this year. And a nationwide legal conference will vote on a model state law this month. “What we’re seeing around the country is prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges all coming to an understanding that just because someone has committed a crime and had to pay a price for it, doesn’t mean they should be relegated forever to second-class citizenship,” says Stephen Saltzburg, chairman-elect of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice section.